Rembrandt self-portrait sells for $18.7 million at Sotheby’s

FILE - In this Thursday, July 23, 2020 file photo, a Sotheby's employee adjusts a painting by Rembrandt, entitled 'Self-portrait, wearing a ruff and black hat' at Sotheby's auction rooms in London. The auction house Sotheby’s is holding an online sale featuring artwork that spans five centuries of art history, from Rembrandt to Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró to Banksy. The auction on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, of 70 artworks, from the 17th century to the present day, will be live-streamed from Sotheby's London. The event comes after months of disruption to the art world due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

LONDON (AP) — A self-portrait by Rembrandt sold for 14.5 million pounds ($18.7 million) at a Sotheby’s virtual auction Tuesday – a record price for a self-portrait by the Dutch master, the auctioneer’s said.

Sotheby’s said “Self portrait wearing a ruff and black hat,” from 1632 when the painter was aged 26, was sought by six bidders. It fell within the 12 to 16 million pounds estimate. The last self-portrait by Rembrandt to appear at auction was sold for 6.9 million pounds in 2003, Sotheby’s added.

The painting sold Tuesday was one of only three self-portraits by the painter to remain in private hands, and “the only one ever likely to come to auction.” It measures about 22 by 16 centimeters, or about 8 by 6 inches.

The sale was part of a live-streamed global auction featuring 70 pieces of artwork spanning five centuries of art history, from Rembrandt to Picasso, and from Joan Miró to Banksy. The event saw staff from the auction house’s New York, London and Hong Kong offices furiously gesticulating and whispering into phones as bidders vied to outdo each other.

Among the highlights were Miró’s “Peinture (Femme au chapeau rouge)” (Woman in a Red Hat) from 1927, which sold for 22.3 million pounds ($28.9 million) and a sculpture of a female figure by Alberto Giacometti, which fetched 10.7 million pounds ($13.8 million.)

The auction also includes a triptych by elusive street artist Banksy called “Mediterranean Sea View,” painted in 2017. Presented in elaborate traditional frames, it features orange life jackets and alludes to the lives lost at sea during the European immigration crisis. The paintings fetched 2.2 million pounds — almost double the top estimated price — and the proceeds are meant to raise funds for a hospital in Bethlehem.

Helena Newman, chair of Sotheby’s Europe, said the wide range of art on sale caters to “a new generation of collectors (who) show less concern with the traditional art market categories of the past.”

“With the global art world calendar having shifted, we too have seized the opportunity to do things differently,” she said.

Sotheby’s London said some two-thirds of the works on sale have never been at auction before. Of the rest, most had been off the market for two decades.